It’s all about the denars, denars, denars.
I wish I had more denars, denars, denars.
Volunteers don’t have much money.
Just for the pazar, rent, and kombis.
I saw another volunteer blog recently that rewrote the lyrics to Vanessa Carlton’s song “Making my way downtown” (probably not the actual title) to talk about volunteer life and thought it was a cute idea. Then I tried to do it and well, sorry Jessie J.
The point being: money!
Food and money are the two most popular questions I get about Macedonia, and while I write (and talk and think) about food constantly, I haven’t given money much attention.
The currency here is the denar. Right now, the conversion rate is about 55 denars to $1.
Peace Corps Volunteers get a monthly rent allowance, that we either pay toward apartments or to host families. We additionally get a living stipend for food, in-country travel, and other basics. Depending on the conversion rate, it’s somewhere around $175 a month. I haven’t run out yet.
I can chalk that up to cost of living, but also living in my village. There aren’t a lot of ways to spend money. There aren’t restaurants or coffee shops to tempt me. I buy eggs and some of the essentials at the two little corner stores, but I think the largest bill I’ve ever run up is about 400 denars, or a bit over $7. (#treatyoself)
The bus or kombi (shared van) from my village to Kocani: 20 denars (less than $0.50) Oh, and the kombi guy will drop me off at my house because we’re buddies.
The taxi from my village to Kocani: 60-80 denars ($1-$1.50)
Round-trip bus ticket from Kocani to Skopje (capital city): 420 denars (about $7.50)
Fresh produce ranges depending on the season, but some of the prices right now:
Apples: 30 denars per kilo (about $0.50 for more than two pounds)
Mandarin oranges: 60 denars per kilo (just over $1)
Eggs: 5 den per egg (usually packaged in 10 at the store, but I have an egg lady)
Expresso: 30 denars (about $0.50)
Turkish coffee: 40 denars (about $0.75)
Pizza: 170 denars (just over $3)
Salad: 80 denars (less than $1.50)
Sandwich: 10 denars for a vegetarian sandwich from my favorite sandwich guy
I’m not really sure. I haven’t really bought clothing here. I bought a great sweater at the market once for about $3, but I usually jazz up my wardrobe with the clothes other volunteers leave at the Peace Corps office. (It’s like our own personal Goodwill Store.)
Same. I haven’t bought any shoes in country, though the boots I keep gluing back together are begging me too. (It’s become a personal mission to extend their life through the end of my service.) There are sales on boots right now because spring is arriving for about 900 denars a pair (about $16.50 on sale).
Since I primarily spend my money on food, that about covers it. Living on my volunteer stipend has been no problem. If I had my American salary back, I would be living large. (When my friend Katie visited from D.C. she felt like a baller.) Oh and by the way, hilariously, we have a “ce do 99 den” store. Everything is up to 99 denars. It’s just as amazing as it sounds.